A family face a penniless Christmas after a builder left their home in a shocking state and disappeared with £5,500, they claim.
Joanna Sterling, 47, has been plunged into debt after she had to pay a second builder to complete her extension after the first one allegedly walked out with her money.
Now, Joanna and her two young children face a cash-strapped Christmas in "a house that doesn’t feel like a home".
She said: "I’ve cried every day. I was numb every day for weeks after and I’m now on anti-depressants, reports Chronicle Live.
"The house isn’t going to feel like a home this Christmas. The kids won’t be able to have as much as they normally have."
After living in her house in Whitely Bay, North Tyneside, for nine years, Joanna decided to have a porch and downstairs bathroom extension fitted.
Although she knew money would be tight, the mum pushed ahead with the plan to create the house of her dreams.
In May, Joanna contacted a local builder who had been recommended by friends and asked him to do the job.
She gave him a £2,000 deposit to buy materials after they agreed the work would be done by late June.
"In the beginning everything was great", she said.
"He would come every day and we actually used to get on."
The following month Joanna gave the builder another £5,500 to buy materials, but they never arrived.
Her anxieties about the arrangement grew when he stopped turning up to work and the completion date came and went.
Joanna said: "We had a few arguments.
"I’m sorry but when it got to six weeks past the due date and I couldn’t see any evidence of work I said ‘you’re taking the mick and this is not good enough’."
In August, the builder stopped turning up at the house.
Despite persistent calls and emails from Joanna, he did not reimburse her the money to buy the materials.
Joanna said she was left living in a house with exposed pipes and bare walls.
She claims she had to pay a second builder to carry on the work, but she still cannot afford to have the whole job done.
"I’m completely broke," she said.
"I’ve had to max out my credit cards because I’ve had to buy everything again.
"I’ve had to borrow £200 from someone and money from my family for my children this Christmas."
Joanna said the ordeal has impacted her two children, Kai, 11, and nine-year-old Lexi.
She said: "My kids have seen me break my heart over this.
"They say ‘I wish the builder didn’t steal your money mumma’."
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